by Keba Sebetoane
On the 7th of March 2004 when I was seventeen years old I started hating all men.
It took one man for me to hate all man. I hated him so much. The only thing could I could think of was killing him. On that night I made a promise to myself that I’d never associate myself with any other man. I blamed myself. The thought of him on top of me unable to defend myself, made facing tomorrow impossible. I saw no hope and lost faith. My dreams were shattered, and the freedom to say “I am me” was lost.
Kingsley and I were friends, more like brother and sister. I was on my way from
Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) offices, where I attended life-skills and computer training, when I first met him. He introduced himself as a gay man, but not many people knew about his sexuality, so he said. He warned me not to tell anybody, especially his friends because he was not “out” to everyone. We’d spend most of our days together if I was not with my girlfriend or my other friends, and it would feel odd if a day passed without us seeing each other.
One evening we went out to a “club” near his home. It was nice there because I met some of my friends from high school. I started dancing with other people and was really enjoying myself until suddenly his mood changed. He complained that I was spending too much time with other people and I didn’t want to upset him, so I sat with him. It got really late, and I had the only key for the house so I insisted on going home. It was a bit chilly and he went to get something warm to wear, we went to his place since it was close by. I went to the outside toilet and I thought he went to get a jacket. He was standing in front of the toilet. I was shocked to see him. He did not look happy, so I asked him what was wrong. He did not reply, but he went to his room and I followed him in the hope of finding out. That was the worst mistake I ever made.
I got a bit tense when he gave me the “you make me sick” look. He locked the door. I was really confused as he was swearing at me and saying he hated people who pretend. I then asked him what he was talking about. He was furious with the lesbian life I was living. He said I should stop taking other peoples girlfriends, and that I was beautiful and capable of getting myself a boyfriend. I got angry and started arguing back. He slapped me on the face, and warned me not to shout at him or I would regret it.
He said: “Tonight I’m going to change you, and from now on you are my girlfriend”.
I got angry and told him I knew my rights. I started to leave. He got up holding a screwdriver and threatened to stab me if I didn’t co-operate. I became quiet, trying to calm him down and think of a way to leave his place without anyone getting hurt. He ordered me to take off my clothes while he hit me with anything came across. No matter how hard I cried or how loud I screamed, he told me it wouldn’t help because he was not scared of anyone or anything. He punched me and I thought he was going to kill me if I fought back.
He raped me repeatedly for over an hour. I was quiet with tears streaming down my face. He continued to beat me even though he had succeeded. He kept asking me if I loved him and when I said no, then the beatings got worse. “You go about pretending you are attending classes in Jo’burg while you hook up with your Nigerian boyfriends, and then you come pretending to be something you are not,” he said.
A little after midnight he fell into a deep sleep. I dressed silently and left. I went straight home. I cried the whole night. I couldn’t sleep. My face was bruised. When my family asked what had happened I lied and said I was in a fight with a friend. His smell was all over my clothes and body, and it felt like he was still with me. I took a bath three times.
I called Zanele Muholi, she was the only person I could relate to, and someone who’d come up with a way to deal with the mess I’d got myself into. I took a train and we met in town. We went to People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) for counseling. We then went to Medico in Johanesburg for a medical examination and treatment. We didn’t get help as there neither nurses nor doctors on duty and they had no crime kits. They also said it was not possible for a doctor who is based in Johannesburg to testify in a case originating in Krugersdorp.
They offered me a slice of bread and a painkiller. Muholi organised a car and we drove to Leratong hospital in Kagiso. There was no doctor on duty and no crime kits at the crisis centre. While waiting for a doctor, the police came by to drop the crime kit. They said they were rushing to Magaliesberg to attend to another rape case.
The doctor came after three hours. I was examined and then he took the statement for the medical report. I told him the guy raped me because I was a lesbian. As soon as he heard that he stopped writing and posed questions regarding my sexuality.
He said: “Why are you a lesbian at this age?
Do you know it is against the constitution to make such a decision without the consent of a parent?
You are wearing a cross of Christ, did you know it is an abomination in the eyes of God to be lesbian?”
I asked him, “The guy raped me because he wanted to change me, are you saying that was a right thing to do?”
He didn’t answer me, but instead he scratched off the report and wrote, “There is no sign of forceful penetration because the girl had already broken her virginity and the blood stains in her eyes are due to constant rubbing, and might develop further if they are not treated”. Without a medical report I had a weakened case. The police arrived at nine o’clock that night. I opened a case and then went home, but could not stay long, as my safety was not guaranteed. I got a call around half past ten to inform me that the guy had been arrested and I’d be notified in advance about the case and court details.
I wanted to be away from Johannesburg, to ease my mind so I left for KwaZulu-Natal for a month. When I came back I heard that the guy had been released. I then called the sergeant who was handling the case. He told me the same thing: “They’ll notify you in advance”.
On the 28 August 2004 I saw my rapist, he approached me threatened to kill me. I felt cold, angry and very scared. I called the sergeant again, but this time I couldn’t get a hold of him. I went to the station. They couldn’t find the docket, and said it didn’t exist. I was failed medically, and the justice system proved its non-existence. South Africa is celebrating twelve years of democracy, but with written policies that are not implemented. We are told to cooperate and not take the law into our own hands. Others harm us and get away with it, we have no way of getting justice.
Will South Africa ever change to accommodate everyone?
Keba’s life story was first published in
Reclaiming the L-word
Sapphos daughters out in Africa edited by Alleyn Diesel
About the author
Keba is a fierce young feminist and activist. She is one of the first black lesbians to speak out on the hate crime pandemic. She previously worked for FEW and performed with SAfroDykes. She also traveled with Chosen FEW to the 2006 Gay Games held in Chicago, US.